It was an exciting day when Joe Jackson was born. The oldest of five kids, Joe was always a favorite of his father. He was even named after his father, and it didn’t take long before he became known as Little Joe. It was better than Joe Junior or just Junior.
At an early age it was easy to see that Little Joe was very much like his father. They were both headstrong and driven in just about everything they did.
As a child, Little Joe was a better than average student. He enjoyed farming with his dad and was quick to learn everything there was to know.
His father thought it was important, if he was going to have a farming son, that the son should be independent from the father and have his own farming operation. After high school and college, Little Joe began his farming career by renting some land from the neighbors and using his dad’s equipment.
As Little Joe grew, he gradually bought his own line of equipment and began an operation separate from his father.
Everything went along well until Little Joe was about 30 years old. The father and son had a difference of opinion about how big their operations should be and how they should work together. Because they were both driven and successful, neither seemed to be able to compromise on this issue. And so they quit working together entirely and each continued on their own.
Both were successful, but the ill feelings from their difference of opinion continued to grow. Family get-togethers became less frequent and when the two were in the same room, there were often heated disagreements on many issues, including farming and politics. After a few years they did not talk to each other at all. This continued on for almost 10 years.
Now exactly what they disagreed upon and how it got so out of hand was difficult to describe to anyone outside of the family. Both men were respected in the community and were honest and caring. It seemed the only people they couldn’t get along with were each other.
When Joe the father turned 60 years old, he had a sort of a turning point in his life and felt that he should do something to repair the relationship. The problem was there had been no positive communication for most of 10 years.
He also believed that he had done nothing wrong, which made apologizing almost out of the question. At the same time he felt as if Little Joe had done nothing significantly wrong either and he wasn’t exactly sure how they got into this situation.
More importantly, he wasn’t sure how to fix it. The few times that they had been together they avoided each other like the plague. He knew Little Joe’s feelings were probably hurt because of his father’s rejection.
One night after watching a movie with his wife, a stroke of inspiration came to Joe. As he had grown older, Joe had become a pie baker; his signature pie was his tasty apple pie. He had given them to neighbors and friends and they all went on and on about how good they were. At first he thought they were just being nice, but eventually he realized they really were good.
Tuesday was pie-baking night, and he reserved the very best pie to give to Little Joe. On Wednesday afternoon he showed up at Little Joe’s farm shop with a pie in hand.
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As he walked through the door, Little Joe was on the other side of the shop and asked him what he wanted in a somewhat gruff voice. Joe said that he had brought him a pie.
Little Joe’s response was that if he thought bringing a pie would fix things, he was wrong. Joe replied that he just wanted to give him a pie, and he set it on the workbench and walked out the door and drove away.
Little Joe looked at the pie on the workbench and was about to throw it in the garbage. At the last moment he took off the aluminum foil covering the pie and sampled it. He grudgingly admitted to himself it was good, but not good enough to change things.
The father waited a couple of months and then baked another pie to give to Little Joe. Again he waited for a day when Little Joe would be in the shop and delivered the pie. This time Little Joe took the pie from him, set it on the workbench and turned and walked away.
The pie deliveries continued every two or three months for the next several years.
One day Joe showed up with a pie and instead of simply taking the pie and walking away, Little Joe asked if he would like to have a piece of pie with him. There just happened to be ice cream in the freezer in the office of Little Joe’s shop, not by accident.
The two men sat and ate and talked about the weather for a few minutes. Little Joe went back to work and his dad left.
A few months later Joe was back again with another pie, and this time he brought a can of spray whipped cream. Little Joe invited him in.
As they sat down to have a piece of pie, two of Little Joe’s sons came in and sat down to meet their grandfather. Most of the talk was again about the weather, but there were also some comments about the activities Little Joe’s kids were in.
Joe continued to deliver pies to the farm shop now on a monthly basis. The time he spent there went from 15 minutes to two hours. Their conversations covered a wide variety of topics, including some farming things. Joe carefully complimented his son on things he was doing well. He was also cautious in discussing things he knew they did not agree upon.
On the next visit, Little Joe suggested that some time they should have pie in the house, and that they should have his mother and wife join them. And so on the 4th of July in the year that Joe turned 65, they had a get-together at Little Joe’s house with all of the family present. There were the usual hot dogs and firecrackers. But at the end of the day there were a large variety of apple pies to enjoy.
Sometimes people get themselves into situations of conflict or disagreement and can’t figure out how to resolve them. Joe’s pies, in and of themselves, did not fix his problem. But the pies represented a way for Joe to say that he cared for his son, was sorry that things were not good between them, and would like things to be better.
Perhaps this whole process could have gone much faster had Joe been able to simply say those words. At the same time, bringing pies over a period of years displayed sincerity and commitment to improving things.
There are many solutions to life’s problems, and sometimes apple pie is the solution.
Bob Dunaway and Associates offer estate and retirement planning. Gary Johnson can be reached at 563-927-4554 or by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org.